"I can repeat the question, but am I bright enough to ask it?"


2003

"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"


Taking all three points together, my advice is to stimulate optimism by making a bold move turning America's focus from its negative role in war brinkmanship to a positive role as a leader who stands for peace, freedom and economic growth.

Jordan Pollack

Dear Mr. President,

In the mad hysteria of the moment, when all your intellectual resources are focused on finding someone in the Middle East to play Tit for Tat, whether Osama, Saddam, or Abu Nidal, I would remind you of some common sense truths about the complex dynamics of living systems.

First: Punishment doesn't work.

We know that beating a child doesn't make them peaceful, it makes them more violent.

We know that exercise doesn't make you tired, it gives you more energy.

If you have dandelions growing in your lawn, would you selectively blow their heads off or fertilize the lawn to choke out the weeds? Each dandelion you crush results in many more next year, while a stronger lawn resists their invasion.

The moral of this story is that striking back at terrorists may merely create more terrorists, while engaging the people in peaceful commerce inhibits terror.

Second: You can bet your last nickel that masses are fickle.

The mass coherence which supports your initiatives can turn on a dime. Spending $200B on war will cause severe "buyers remorse" when the people realize they bought nothing but national debt, a mess in Iraq, and higher prices for oil.

Third: Optimism is necessary.

Optimists behave different than pessimists. They buy more, invest more, take risk for future gains, and work harder. One doesn't have to be a genius to realize that the threat of continual war, while enhancing power, leads to economic woes because investors and consumers are uncertain. While oil profits may rise, all the rest of our modern industries, from Airlines, to Investment Banking, Telecommunications, Software and Chips will continue to collapse. To end the depression, the country needs optimism about economic growth driven by expectations of peace and stability.

Taking all three points together, my advice is to stimulate optimism by making a bold move turning America's focus from its negative role in war brinkmanship to a positive role as a leader who stands for peace, freedom and economic growth.

Jordan Pollack
Professor of Computer Science
Brandeis University

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